“A Good Heat,” a short tale from Newburyport

From Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, by Sarah Anna Emery


In the latter half of the 18th Century, Mr. Gordon had a shipyard forge between Atkinson Common and Cashman Street. This gentleman was somewhat economical in his household and shop. At that period, cheese was a customary appendage of the dinner table, being considered an accessory to digestion. Mr. Gordon employed several workmen.

One day a large cheese was placed on the table; after the meat had been disposed of, Mr. Gordon took a knife to cut the cheese; turning it over, he exclaimed,

“This is a good cheese, a pretty cheese, too good to spoil!” and laying down the knife, he rose and called his men to their work.

That afternoon a large anchor was to be forged, the fire was kindled, the iron heated. “That is a good heat!” exultantly exclaimed the master.

“A good heat,” with one voice responded the men.

“A grand heat,” reiterated the master.

“A grand heat,” again responded the men.

“Then why don’t you strike?” impatiently demanded the master.

“It is a good heat?” queried the foreman.

“Yes, yes, strike, strike I tell ye,” hurriedly ordered the master in a quick authoritative tone.” Strike, strike.”

“Don’t you think it is too good a heat to spoil?” quietly returned the foreman, while not an arm was uplifted.

The hint was taken; the cheese brought out with a loaf of brown bread. The luncheon eaten and well washed down with grog, the anchor was forged with a will.

Categories: Legends

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